A Flight of Fancy

Broward commissioners are spending big bucks on an unlikely airport-growth scheme

Further answers on the vision/plan are supposed to be forthcoming in the 18-month study, in which Leigh Fisher is being asked to give its opinion on whether a proposal by Leigh Fisher is practical. If the consultants determine their proposal has merit, they're likely to have a hand in further design work, Sherry told commissioners. A construction company called O'Brien-Kreitzberg Inc., which is working on the current airport expansion, will study whether the project can be built while Leigh Fisher considers finances, Martin says.

Although Graber is concerned about a possible conflict of interest, Rodstrom isn't. "To the untrained eye or to the casual observer, that may be something you think about," Rodstrom says. But he's not worried, because the vision described in 2020, particularly the airport-seaport link and on-site hotel, have long been discussed by airport staff.

Adds Parrish: "We have auditors and business planners that evaluate any idea that's brought forward."

Wretched excess may some day soon fill international travelers' first view of Broward County
Wretched excess may some day soon fill international travelers' first view of Broward County

But the only comment from "auditors and business planners" so far, from commission auditor Norm Thabit, was ignored by commissioners. Before the vote he urged them not to spend anything until they saw more details. Though Sherry acknowledged to the commission the project would cost "billions," Reynolds plays down the estimate with assurances of grants, business partnerships, and bonds.

Reynolds also mentions something called a "higher passenger-facility charge" that might help pay for the plan. That approach has already been tried in Miami, which jacked up the fee (a per-passenger toll paid by airlines to an airport) to finance its expansion. In Miami, airlines currently shell out three times more per traveler than they do in Fort Lauderdale.

But Sherry expects that most of the money to pay for 2020 Vision will come from leasing space around the atrium to the planned hotels, shops, and offices. "If anything, revenue generated by 2020 Vision may help to cover the capital costs of many non-2020 projects," he believes.

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